Skip to main content /transcript




The Search for Chandra: Levy Parents Expected to Make Statement Soon

Aired July 12, 2001 - 12:15   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, we go from one developing story in Washington, D.C. to another that goes from Washington, D.C. to Modesto, California.

You are looking on the left side of your screen at a live picture of the front door of the Levy household -- this developing story over the last 10-11 weeks: the missing Washington, D.C. intern Chandra Levy.

As we understand it, we've been given about a one-minute warning. We hear her parents are going to come out of their home and that they have a statement to make to reporters who have been camped outside their house.

STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: Not a rare moment -- Mrs. Levy spoke earlier today and told reporters who were gathered outside the home that this whole situation for her is surreal, and that what matters most is for her to see her daughter again, that the developments, as they are unfolding in Washington, don't seem real to her now.

Of course, this is a family which has worked long and hard to keep the disappearance of their daughter in public view at a time when it just seemed to be a very low-key story, one of many that occur in Washington, where young people go missing and are not found.

KAGAN: Right -- and not just Washington, D.C., but across America, hundred, thousands of people, as missing people. What makes Chandra Levy different -- what we've come to find out over recent weeks -- her involvement -- her romantic involvement with the congressman from her district, Gary Condit.

The news that has come out over recent days: apparently, not just the congressman's involvement with Chandra Levy, but other women coming forward as well -- and then today the news of a family friend that -- the gardener of the Levy family, he came forward and says he believes his daughter too had a relationship with the congressman some years ago. That's what Mrs. Levy was commenting on when people are asking: Is this story just getting so incredible?

From a media standpoint, it does build and build. But from a family standpoint -- the Levy family -- they just want to know what happened to their daughter, someone they haven't heard from in over two months.

FRAZIER: Which is something that they've been working on almost in a vacuum, asking for help, actually managing a bit of a media campaign, asking advisers to consult with them and telling them how to go about keeping their daughter's name in the public eye.

And this is something that Bob Franken has been tracking for a long time, before the story sort of exploded into the developments that it has in the most recent days. And he can attest to the persistence and the intelligence of the Levy family in managing this case -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As a matter of fact, what we're seeing right now is a departure, we're told, from the plan.

The public relations people here in Washington that they hired said there was no plan for the Levys to come out and talk with us. But they said: Of course, we don't have absolute control over this.

And this story from the beginning has had the element about the Congressman Condit involvement with Chandra Levy. We now know that that was something that was encouraged from the very beginning by the Levy family and those who advised them. And, of course, it is something that, as this has gone on and they've hired more sophisticated public relations people here in Washington -- and lawyers -- we have been in fact getting a coordinated campaign.

And, of course, it has resulted in a huge amount of publicity about the missing persons case that oftentimes is so routine -- this one Chandra Levy. Of course, regrettably, it has not resulted in a final disposition of this case.

But in any case, the Levys at their home in Modesto, California apparently have decided that they are going to come out and talk about this matter. We have confirmed, as you know, that the FBI did interview Otis Thomas, who is both a Pentecostal minister from nearby Ceres -- which, by the way, is where Condit lives --- and is somebody who is a gardener -- who is a gardener for the Levy family.

And this apparently came up in conversations quite well before Chandra Levy disappeared. And there's been some discussion about the fact that Mrs. Levy, Susan Levy, told her daughter about this and was trying to discourage Chandra Levy from the relationship she heard of that she was having with the congressman, a relationship, as we now know, that was denied for several weeks by the congressman's staff members, but that the congressman -- we're told by police sources -- finally acknowledged when he met with the police last Friday night.

So we are waiting for the Levys to talk about this. We also know that on the door of the home of Otis Thomas in nearby Ceres is what purports to be a letter from Jennifer Thomas -- that's the signature that is on it -- denying that there was a relationship, denying that she even knew the congressman. So now we are waiting to hear the next installment, Steve and Daryn, from the Levy family.

FRAZIER: And before we turn, Bob, to Martin Savidge in Modesto, just as we look at this door, it's a reminder, too, of an unfortunate reality in American life. And that is that it takes a family of some means to pursue this kind of dogged call for help on the part of authorities. This is a double door to a very large house here -- the door itself just a sign of the kind of wealth that the Levy family enjoy, and which, unfortunately, it is now expending in a desperate search for their daughter.

The car -- which we're not seeing too well because our CNN "live" logo is blocking it -- is a top-of-the-line German import. This is something that's not always available to other families, Bob, when people go missing, as we have seen in the case of those Chicago girls, who have community members calling for their help, but not the kind of private assistance and consultants you just cited a moment ago.

FRANKEN: Well, Dr. Levy is an oncologist in Modesto. And Mrs. Levy is a sculptor. I will point out that there is an organization that is coincidentally based in Modesto, the Sund-Carrington Foundation, which is devoted to just this problem.

They have in fact created this organization so that people whose children are missing -- or whose relatives are missing -- have a way of going to somebody who is expert in the field of public relations who can get that kind of coverage. At the very beginning, when this story first surfaced and the Levys first came to Washington, they were accompanied by an operative from that foundation wherever they went.

Interviews were arranged by this person. There was discussion. Any time anybody asked a question, there would oftentimes be a whispered conversation, that type of thing. She is still part of this operation, so to speak. But now it has expanded. The Levys hired a Washington attorney sophisticated in these types of things, Billy Martin, as we well know. And he in turn hired a public relations firm that includes the person -- one of the people who was involved in press operations for Vice President Gore -- a very sophisticated organization.

They run a very tight ship. You recall that Linda Zamsky, who is an aunt of Chandra Levy, went public in a very, very calculated way with the story that Chandra Levy had told her on occasion that she was in fact having the relationship with Congressman Condit. So, yes, this is very tightly controlled. It does take people of some means. But between that and certain television programs that are on the air, that type of thing, it doesn't necessarily require people of means.

KAGAN: All right, Bob, we're going to have you stand by. While you're in Washington, D.C., we have our Martin Savidge in Modesto.

Marty, what you can add as we sit here and wait for the Levys to come out and speak?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, I just had a brief conversation with Susan Levy on her front doorstep, which everyone is looking at right now. And she told us that she would be out in about three or four minutes. That has since expired.

But, of course, She does plan to come out. We expect that the statement she has is going to be extremely brief. In fact, it could be down to one word -- or really two words put together. And that is "no comment."

It is clear at this point that they do not wish to speak. We were here at the Levy home last night when the Levys returned from dinner. And we spoke at that time, asking if she had anything to say regarding these new reports that have come to light. She also repeated that time she had no comment, that she wanted to talk to her attorney, Billy Martin.

It was asked if she was surprised by this news or was she shocked by anything. And she said that nothing surprises her anymore and everything shocks her about this particular story. She was obviously very weary, very tired. She said she wanted to get some rest. And she said all of this seems so very surreal. All she wants to do is get her daughter back.

So that is what is being said at this particular point -- and the Levys obviously feeling that there is not a lot they have to say. But we are awaiting when she does comes out and wait to see if in fact she may say more.

KAGAN: Understandable the tragedy and the difficult times that this family is going through.

Marty, maybe also, just to put a small piece of it in perspective, you can describe to us the media scene in front of their home.

SAVIDGE: Well, I mean, we have always sort of been here in a presence. We work very carefully not to intrude upon them. We have regular conversations with the Levys all the time in trying to sort of make sure that we don't interfere with the things that they have to do and yet try to maintain a presence so that if they want to speak, we are here at a moment's notice to do that.

So it's a carefully orchestrated communication that we have. And they have been extremely willing to talk to us when they have something to say. Obviously, it benefits the case of their daughter with all the media attention. And they are not hostile in any way to our presence here, and in fact are quite friendly towards it.

One interesting thing that can be pointed out about Modesto: It is not a very large town. We're talking about maybe 200,000 people and some of the unusual circumstances that you can find in a small town. Congressman Condit's father, as you know, is a Baptist minister. And he at times will visit and attend to those who are in hospital. Well, it turns out that the hospital that he visits is said to be the very same hospital that Dr. Levy does his oncology work at.

And, at times, it can be an uncomfortable situation, it is said, for hospital staffers, just because they know of the relationship between these two men. That's the kind of picture and that's the situation you can get in a relatively small town like this one.

(CROSSTALK) KAGAN: I'm sorry, Marty.

But the other small-world connection here is just the very fact that the gardener and family friend of the Levys would have another story to tell, like we heard today, about he alleging his daughter was also, at one point, he believes, involved with the congressman. What would be the chances of that?

SAVIDGE: Well, that's exactly right. And that is certainly a spectacular coincidence. However, we have to couch that by saying that the FBI have talked to this man and they cannot, at this point, ascertain what his allegations, if any, have any connection to the disappearance or the investigation of Chandra Levy.

But you're right. That does point out another facet, a remarkable one, if it is indeed accurate, as to the small town life and national tragedy here in an investigation.

FRAZIER: Martin, it's Frazier here, as we look at these pictures of the outside of the Levy home, let's turn back to what was happening over the weekend, when you were filling me in on how the local media was calling for Congressman Condit to explain himself to his constituents.

And you were saying that the response of constituents there in California's 18th District was one of concern that they hadn't been told the truth and they hadn't heard directly from their congressman. With these allegations piling on allegations, is there any intensification of that call for him to speak?

SAVIDGE: Well, as somebody put it, they said it was that deafening silence. They felt that it was highly unusual that the congressman they thought they all knew so very well, who many people here feel that they have a personal connection to, has not said anything at all.

We pointed out that, in this particular area -- not unlike many other communities -- people like to hear it -- if you'll excuse the vernacular -- straight from the horse's mouth. And they don't want to hear it coming from public relations people. They don't want to get their information coming from paid spokespersons. They want to hear it from the man they put in office. And that's been very frustrating for them. And calls to that nature into local radio talk shows and editorials in newspapers reflect that, that it is the congressman's continued silence, the fact he has not come forward, made an effort to communicate with his constituents.

Now it was interesting, we were talking with the mayor of Modesto last night, and we said: Well, how exactly would he do that? What is the forum that would be envisioned? Does he go on national television at a press conference in Washington, D.C.? That seems a bit impersonal and directs comments meant for his constituents from far away. Or would he come here. Would he try to hold some town hall meeting?

For the most part, it was felt: No, what he would do is probably remain silent at the advice of his attorney and perhaps at the advice of his political advisers.

So far, he has not said anything. And it continues to trouble the people of the 18th Congressional District.

KAGAN: And as we went to this live picture, Marty, we pointed out that this is a story that does stretch from Modesto to Washington, D.C., where our Bob Franken is carrying that part of the story.

Bob, this is quite a contrast. Here we are waiting to hear from the Levys yet again, and yet again still no word from Congressman Condit -- any word, any indication from his office that at any point he is going to be willing to make a public statement, not on paper, but in person?

FRANKEN: Quite the contrary.

Right now, by everybody's account who is working with him -- including his lawyer -- this is not the time to do it. There is plenty of time for that. And, of course, they go onto say that what's important here is finding Chandra Levy, as opposed to the various distractions that are here.

We just have some news which is particularly appropriate right now. It is the Levy family that originally demanded that Congressman Condit take a polygraph test -- just to review quickly. That occurred, of course, after it was reported that, in his Friday-night encounter with police detectives, that he had in fact finally acknowledged that he did have a romantic relationship with Chandra Levy, which contradicted the public comments of his spokespeople for several weeks.

Now we are hearing that there is a negotiation going on. Condit's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said that he was willing to discuss the possibility of a polygraph. Now, this negotiation has been really stuck on the scope of the questioning. The lawyer has said there have to be some limitations. And we have just heard from the police chief, Charles Ramsey in Washington, who has said that the police will decide what the questions are, that there will be no limitations. That is the negotiating position of the Washington, D.C. police.

So police are sort of bearing down. They're saying that they don't want to do this without being able to fully investigate the credibility of Congressman Condit. The police chief was further asked: Well, if you can't work your deal, will you file a warrant demanding a lie detector test?

And the answer was no. And the answer probably was no because that would be extremely difficult to do legally. First of all, lie detector tests are considered in many circles to be highly unreliable. And second of all, as the police have pointed out repeatedly, they don't really have -- the legal term is probable cause -- they don't have reason enough to go to a prosecutor and go through the motions and get a judge to agree for a warrant given the lack of evidence they have that Congressman Condit is in fact somebody who should be viewed suspiciously. They say repeatedly he's not a suspect. So it is a negotiation that goes on. But looks like the police chief here has dug in his heels about the conditions for that test.

KAGAN: And as that focus on Congressman Condit does go on, there is other focuses of this case. Remind us of that, what else they are doing on this case today, Bob.

FRANKEN: Well, there is just such a wide variety of things going on. Police have decided that they want to investigate abandoned buildings in the Northwest Washington area near where both the congressman and Chandra Levy have their apartments.

They plan to, in fact, have officers identify which of the abandoned buildings. This is a very affluent area -- and then, if necessary, bring in the cadaver dogs. And they say, yes, of course, they are looking for evidence of foul play.

And as we know, there has also been the plan to take these same cadaver dogs -- which mean exactly what they sound: dogs that look for bodies -- take them out to landfills in the various areas to see if there is something that they can find out there that is relevant. We also have going on the fruits of the search that occurred the other night of the congressman's apartment.

I repeat that this was a search that was conducted with the permission of the congressman and his lawyer. It lasted about 3 1/2 hours. And the material that they got from that apparently was fairly minimal. It included a few items of clothing. And we're told that the police are looking at it, having their experts go over it. And then if they decide to, they'll send one or two of the items -- whatever they decide to send -- to the federal crime lab.

Now, that is a decision that is going to be made later today. We also have Anne Marie Smith in town. Anne Marie Smith is the flight attendant who claims she too had a romantic relationship with Congressman Condit, and, furthermore, that she had been asked to lie by the congressman in a sworn statement about that. Well, the U.S. attorney here has expressed some interest in that. So, for the second day now, Anne Marie Smith is being interviewed by the U.S. attorney, Washington, D.C. detectives and FBI agents about that to see if there are any legal questions there.

FRAZIER: Bob Franken bringing us up to date on this.

Bob, we're going to ask to you stand by, please, if you would.

And we'll turn to Martin Savidge, who was telling us earlier that -- he was just outside -- this image you see here just behind the camera making this picture of the front door of the Levy home in Modesto, California -- Martin.

And we believe Marty is outside by the driveway there, which we now see from the street.

And maybe what we'll do is turn back to Bob, as we make sure whether we have Marty hooked up or not.

And that is, Bob, to ask about the clarity and the very specificity that the police are using when they say that the congressman is not a suspect. And that is only because he's not involved in any kind of criminal investigation right now.

KAGAN: Well, it sounds like we do have Martin Savidge ready to go.

The situation here: We are standing by. Once again, we expect the Levys, the parents of Chandra Levy, to come out of their home in Modesto, California. They had signaled to our Martin Savidge that they were going to do that sometime within the next few minutes. So we are standing by for that.

We are going to wrap up our coverage here.



Back to the top